New York Legislature Authorizes First Regional STEAM School

The bill, which was passed by the Senate, will jumpstart plans by Syracuse to transform a former high school into a regional centerpiece where students would be taught science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

by Mark Weiner, Syracuse Media Group / June 20, 2019
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(TNS) — New York lawmakers are poised to pass a bill today that would jump start Syracuse’s ambitious plan to transform the former Central Tech into the state’s first regional STEAM high school.

The legislation authorizes the Syracuse City School District to establish the school and opens the door for the state to pay 95 to 98 percent of the estimated $75 million in construction costs, according to Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli, the bill’s author.

Magnarelli, D-Syracuse, said the bill cleared the Assembly Rules Committee on Tuesday night, and is on the calendar for a vote by the full Assembly today.

The state Senate gave its OK on Tuesday night, voting 62-0 to pass Sen. Rachel May’s companion bill to authorize the school and state aid.

Magnarelli said he’s optimistic the Assembly will pass his bill today and send it to Gov. Andrew Cuomo to be signed into law. He said it’s one of the most important pieces of state legislation for Syracuse and Onondaga County.

“We get to take a huge iconic building in the middle of Syracuse and renovate it,” Magnarelli said in an interview. “This is huge.”

The new high school would draw students from school districts across Onondaga County to study science, technology, engineering, arts and math, or STEAM.

The school is a centerpiece of Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh’s development plan known as the Syracuse Surge.

Walsh told Syracuse.com | The Post-Standard today that the state legislation is a crucial and necessary step to make the STEAM school project possible.

“It’s a significant milestone for us,” Walsh said. “We still have a way to go but this is a big step forward. This has not been done before, so we needed the legislation just to get it out of the gate.”

The state legislation enables the Syracuse School District to establish the school, allows students from outside of the city to attend, and permits the school district to transfer ownership of the Central Tech building to Onondaga County, Walsh said.

The legislation also would allow Onondaga County to issue bonds for the project and lease the building back to the Syracuse School District. The district, in turn, would receive state aid for the lease payments.

Magnarelli said an important part of his legislation will authorize twice the normal cost allowance in state aid, meaning the first phase of the project would be eligible for more money to speed construction.

He said the legislation has not run into opposition as it cleared the Assembly’s Education, Ways and Means, and Rules committees over the past 30 days.

“I think the idea to create the school is a good one,” Magnarelli said. “It’s something our employers need. They are screaming for things like this.”

©2019 Syracuse Media Group, N.Y. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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